Some people like to think about food a lot. We call them foodies, or chowhounds. There are also those who spend a lot of mental energy on food, but not because they are gourmands. Instead they obsess about getting the most nutrition from the smallest amount of calories.

The Calorie Restriction movement posits that we can live an extra 50 years under one condition: We have to rigorously limit the amount of calories we eat.

Journalist Julian Dibbell gonzos it up by joining the CR movement for two months (during which he loses 20 pounds and learns what it’s like to go to bed hungry every night). His report in this week’s New York magazine is a riveting peek into the movement and its practitioners. Built around the meal he shares with some of Calorie Restriction’s most charismatic adherents, the piece does make a startling case for the benefits. But it also shows the warping effects of years of near starvation:

At which point Michael, having finished his helping of asparagus and Quorn, picks up his plate without a word and does what any normal person who has not eaten a truly filling meal in years would do: He holds the plate up to his face and commences licking it clean.

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